Going back to school can often be a challenging time for our youngsters and at times can result in moodiness, anxiety and grief. The pressure is now greater than ever for kids to perform at higher levels leading to school-related anxiety and fear. The following tips can ease the transition back to school in your household.
Before School Begins
1. Continue to give your children household responsibilities!
Maintaining small and simple tasks promotes family connection and cohesiveness. Keep in mind the age of your child and what they are capable of. For example, a 4 year old is capable to helping to set the table whereas a 12 year old is able to do dishes. Chores should last no more than 10-15 minutes.
2. Stay active!
This is a tough one. Our world is ever changing in relation to electronics and the pressure to “always be connected.” However, like anything, too much of one thing is not a good thing and can lead to obsessive tendencies. Limit your child’s screen time. Help your child “unplug” and find creative uses of their time. Get outside and play catch, watch a 30 minute show as a family, go for a walk, play games.
3. Practice the school routine 2-3 weeks before it starts.
Move bedtime back a little earlier each week. Practice setting alarms and waking up earlier. Set out clothes at night before going to sleep. Devise an organized system for packing the school bag and lunches at night, etc. Practice getting up, brushing teeth, eating breakfast and getting out the door within a certain time frame (set a timer and try to beat your best time!). This allows your child time to transition from the less pressured summer routine so they can be most successful and know exactly what is expected of them on the first few days back to school.
4. Prepare for classes.
Ask teachers for a list of classroom supplies that will be needed (folders, rulers, calculators, etc.) so your child is ready and prepared for a new year. If a list has already been mailed to you or provided on the school’s website, be sure to gather supplies nice and early so you have time to look for items the stores may be out of. Don’t save back to school shopping for the last minute!
5. Help kids visualize their school environment.
Talk with your kids about school expectations and what anxieties they may have. Make an effort to connect with school staff and other students before the first day of school, do a tour/walk through of the school to help your child visualize being there, schedule a play date with other parents on the school playground if possible, help your child find answers to any questions they might have.
Throughout the School Year
6. Advocate for your child to be involved in extra-curricular clubs, sports and/or groups.
Staying involved with peers is great for social skill building and gives opportunities for individualized rewards and a sense of teamwork which enhances self esteem. Studies show that high achievement in adulthood links more with performance and enjoyment of childhood extracurricular activities than it does with academic performance! (Foster W. Cline, M.D.)
7. Maintain a consistent homework time.
Once school begins, be sure to set aside consistent homework time each day. If your child doesn’t have homework, encourage some practice time anyway, i.e. reading, math flashcards, spelling exercises, etc.
8. Remember the importance of a quiet, stress-free homework space.
Too often, we don’t realize the impact of a blaring TV or loud noises can have on concentration. Make sure your child has a quiet, peaceful environment for studying.
9. Offer help with homework if your child needs it.
Provide plenty of support and encouragement, but refrain from giving answers or doing the work for them. Teach your children to become problem solvers!
10. Remember, no matter what, always notice what your children are doing well!
Our voices as parents become our children’s inner voices. “You worked really hard on that.” “Show me your best work for the day.” “I am so proud of how hard you have worked.”
11. Stay connected with school staff and follow academic performance.
If your child is a special learner and could benefit from additional support, share these concerns with staff. It may take a minor adjustment that could make the world of a difference for your child’s performance and confidence.
12. Don’t forget to allow your child some down time to unwind at the end of the day.
We all know too well how demanding and fast-paced the world can be. Allow your child time to unwind and take a breather – something we all need! You might label this as “family quiet time.”
13. Throughout the school year, keep lines of communication open.
Talk to your kids about bullying and peer pressure and help empower them to be an active role in advocating for themselves.
Above all, remember to maintain an upbeat attitude when talking about and preparing for the transition back to school. This is a busy time but also an exciting time, so be open about showing your enthusiasm and passing along that positive energy.